national anthology of the best undergraduate writing 2014
Poetry Prize Winner

Conquering Grounds

Jessica Fuquay  • 
Rice University

All our children learn. The uprooted will sing

of the root’s tearing. We draw the ocean-blue,

 

the yellow sun smiling over neat rows of waves,

old ships bobbing like toys in a bath—the Niña, the Pinta,

 

the slave ships that sailed in their shadows,

someplace off the page where a whip drives

 

the wind. Eyelids drawn taut, we are

educated. The stories unspool from our throats,

 

chain-links whose rattling we have taken

for voices—Yoruba, Igbo, Inca, Guaraní, each absence

 

of a name, each specter in the vision now passing

for sight. Who can see a face straight?

 

There’s grain in my reflection, and every beam of light

suspends the upturned dust of artifacts.

 

From glass shards, we make lenses to see farther

into blindness. The centuries vanish

 

at the point of their horizon, the sun so bright

we never saw the flares.